December 21, 2008

Here it is. Sometime after 7 this morning, while I was still sound asleep, the tilt and whirl of the earth in its long dance around the sun conspired to make this the shortest day and longest night of the year.

Solstice. Now, we’re on a three-month voyage to the equinox, when the day and night stand eye-to-eye, fraternal twins, in a way.

And so it goes. Three months past the equinox will come the summer solstice, when the pendulum has reached the opposite side of its arc, and we will see the longest day of the year, and shortest night.

Tick, Tock. Always and forever, or as much of always and forever as we’re gonna get.

As clockworks go, it’s pretty reliable, but it does need resetting now and again.

That explains Leap Year, the one year out of every four when we add a day just to keep everything adjusted to keep up with our calendars and all these artificial structures we’ve tacked onto the real world as a way of laying claim to it. I liken it to the colonial Spaniards poking flagstaffs into an endless series of beaches and claiming everything in the name of their king, while the natives stared out from the underbrush wondering, WTF?

This year we got a leap-second. My friend Bill Kreiger, the captive mad scientist at York College in York, Pennsylvania, explained that on New Year’s Eve, the year will last a second longer than last year did. That’s the bad news, for those of us who just want to get on with things, and the less said about ’08, the better.

Bill says that we already added a day, the leap day, and 2008 will also have an extra second. The extra day is added to correct for a not-quite exactly 365-day revolution around the sun, and the second is a fudge-figure to make up for the tee-tiny little bit less than 24 hours of the earth’s rotation around its own axis. Bill said that the rotation of the Earth is slowing down, meaning the day is getting longer.

What’s that? Old Mother Earth, playing the part of The Old Gray Mare, ain’t what she used to be?

Yep. And you thought your work days only SEEMED longer. They are, in fact stretching out.

Not to worry, said Bill. The fact that dinner with the in-laws seems to go on into eternity is an illusion. Mostly.

As everybody knows, the day as we know it is 24 hours long. Way, way before the Age of the Dinosaurs, say, 900 million years ago this month, our days were only 18 hours long and the year was 480 days long. Fast forward about 700 million years, to the day when Barney the Dinosaur was boinging around on the Earth singing those stupid songs. Back then, the Earth’s day had slowed to from 22 to 23 hours, depending on where you were in the Age of the Dinosaurs, which went on for a very long time, like one of Barney’s songs.

“200 to 300 million years from now indications are that we are going to have a 26 hour day – more time to do things or our employers will find us more work to do,” Bill said.

Well, I’m not going to worry. I’ll be retired by then.

By the way, late in the 1930’s clocks improved to the point that they could be used to measure tiny changes in the Earth’s rotation. Scientists starting fiddling around with leap-seconds in 1972, the same year that, most experts agree, the very first Disco recording was released. A coincidence? I think not.

Somehow, I knew we could blame it on the Bee Gees.

© 2008 Marsh Creek Media, Gettysburg, Pa.
“Burger to Go” is a product of me and my company, Marsh Creek Media and, as such, I am solely responsible for its content.
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The Fabulous Flying Armoire

December 14, 2008

(First published July 12, 1995, re-issued because of a discussion at a Christmas party last night. I’ve made a few tweaks, but left the original time references.)

It was a thing of beauty, all right. A genuine do-it-yourself reproduction of an old-fashioned armoire.

“Armoire” is a French word that roughly translates to “a large piece of furniture used as a closet back in the days when they built houses without them.”

More or less.

Anyway, I bought a matched pair of the things seven or eight months ago at a specialty shop near Harrisburg. Better than six feet tall and built of lustrous North Carolina white pine, they were to fill an important function at the new house, which has closets designed for use by hobbits.

The Fabulous Flying Armoire

The Fabulous Flying Armoire

We wrestled the things downstairs without too much trouble. My friend Mike noted on the way down that he’d seen the box the armoire had come in, and that it weighed 80-some pounds. It didn’t seem the time to mention that each armoire had come in two boxes, each of which weighed 80-some pounds. Timing, as they say, is everything.

Anyway, the two armoires were strapped down into my friend Alan’s pickup truck and, after a few hundred more items were packed into it and the rented U-Strain, off we went to the new house.

Naturally, being in the truck ahead of Alan’s, I missed the best part.

In some varieties of the Christian religion, it is believed that in the final days, all the Saved will ascend directly to Heaven, thereby avoiding the unpleasantness of dying and all.

Possibly the tree from which one of the armoires had been made had grown near a small church in which one of these intense and often noisy sects had practiced. Maybe it was haunted.

Whatever the explanation, somewhere just to the south of where General Pickett’s lot skewered themselves on the bayonet of History, my armoire began to twitch and tug at its moorings, designed to keep it from moving from side-to-side and front-to- back.

Alan, driving along placidly at about 40, had no idea of the wooden epiphany that was occurring in the back of his Ford.

The green truck chugged southward toward Marsh Creek. The white armoire tugged ever more furiously at the bonds that held it to the surly bungees of Earth.

In the car behind, Mike, Maria and Brian were yelling and gesturing wildly, probably at Alan, possibly to the armoire itself, attempting to establish communications with an alien species.

The truck shuddered. The armoire shrugged the bungees aside, free at last.

Gleaming in the sun under a perfect sky, it ascended toward Heaven.

A little.

They tell me it seemed to hang there, in that peaceful way things do during disasters, then began a sort of stiff curtsy toward the green berm rushing by beneath it.

The spell was broken, along with everything else, when the armoire met the roadway. For a split second, everything seemed fine. Then, splendid smooth pine shivered, the sunlight dancing off it in a thousand directions, and suddenly the armoire was a galaxy of oddly shaped boards, hodge-podged over the southbound lane of the Emmitsburg Road.

My friends collected the debris and brought it here to the new house, and told the rest of us what had happened. They sometimes took turns, sometimes talked all at once. There was a lot of arm-waving.

The pieces of the armoire lie on the back porch now, the light of the white pine dimmer, like a fire almost extinguished.

I had a friend once, a short order cook by trade. He tried to describe to me his conversion to one of those charismatic religions, and how he had felt afterward, both elevated by the experience, and shattered by it.

The armoire reminds me a little of him. I believe there is nothing for me to do but to attempt to put it back together again. I am one of those who believe that with faith and enough Elmer’s, nearly anything can be made whole.

Besides, how could I not? This is the armoire that defied gravity, that rose white as a fish into the sunlight, if only for a moment. I shall glue it together, a sort of utilitarian relic, to stand in an honored place among my other furniture, scarred and holy.

FOOTNOTE: Some time later, I think it was that winter, I actually assembled a couple of sawhorses, an assortment of clamps, and the dependable Elmer’s Carpenter’s Glue, and got to work. It took a week or more, maybe two. Some of the pieces were no more than a few inches long. For years, the reassembled armoire’s right-hand door had a panel on the inside that bore the tire-marks from Brian’s little blue Hyundai. I swore we’d never paint over that…but we did. I wish we hadn’t.


© 2008 Marsh Creek Media, Gettysburg, Pa.

“Burger to Go” is a product of me and my company, Marsh Creek Media and, as such, I am solely responsible for its content.
Check out the two “Burger to Go” blogsites:

As goes Malaysia, so goes the rest of the world.

Well, we can hope so anyway.

According to the newswires, a 23-year-old Malaysian man was killed earlier this month at a karaoke session at a coffee house after he enraged other customers by hogging the microphone.

For those who don’t know, Karaoke, a corruption of the Japanese phrase for “somebody make him stop, PLEEZ,” is a diagnostic tool that’s been around for 30 years or so. It is a more accurate gauge of inebriation than the simpler and quieter Breathalyzer test used by law enforcement personnel to estimate whether or not a subject is drunk.

The Breathalyzer, for all its portability and inability to play music most of us hoped never to hear again is fine as far as it goes. But its results cannot be used in court as evidence because there is some doubt as to its accuracy in determining whether or not a subject is blitzed.

Karaoke leaves no doubt whatsoever.

According to in-depth research I did over about 10 minutes on the Internet, Asia has seen a number of incidents in which singers have been assaulted, shot, or stabbed mid-performance, underlining the evidence that the Orient has been civilized much longer than has the West.

Some sources reported that Karaoke rage is not at all uncommon in Asia. In fact, there have been reports that Frank Sinatra’s “My Way” has generated so many outbursts of hostility that some bars in the Philippines no longer offer it on the karaoke menu.

In Thailand earlier this year, a gunman shot and killed eight people as a critical commentary on their endless renditions of “Country Road” by John Denver.

For reasons I have not been able to determine, the gunman was arrested.


© 2008 Marsh Creek Media, Gettysburg, Pa.

“Burger to Go” is a product of me and my company, Marsh Creek Media and, as such, I am solely responsible for its content.

Check out the two “Burger to Go” blogsites: